Moscow, Russia.- President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II, warning the West that if it continued its “nuclear blackmail”, Moscow would respond with the might of its vast arsenal.
“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect our people – this is not bluff,” Putin said in a televised address to the nation, adding that Russia had “many weapons to respond.” .
The Russian Defense Minister said that the partial mobilization will entail the convocation of 300,000 reservists and that it will apply to those who have previous military experience.
Putin’s partial mobilization significantly intensifies the conflict over Ukraine and comes at a time when Russia is facing a Ukrainian counter-offensive that has forced its troops to withdraw and hand over part of the occupied territory.
“It’s clearly something we have to take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control. I’m not sure he’s in control either, really. This is obviously an escalation,” the British Foreign Secretary told Sky News. Gillian Keegan.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podoliak told Reuters that Russia’s mobilization was a predictable step that would prove extremely unpopular and showed that the war was not proceeding according to Moscow’s plan.
Putin said the partial military mobilization of his 2 million reservists was to defend Russia and its territories, arguing that the West did not want peace in Ukraine.
He said that Washington, London and Brussels were pressuring kyiv to “transfer military operations to our territory” with the aim of “completely plundering our country”.
The Ukrainian military has sporadically attacked targets inside Russia throughout the conflict, using Western-supplied long-range weapons.
“Nuclear blackmail has also been used,” Putin said, citing Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe. Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of endangering the plant in the fighting.
He accused senior officials from major NATO nations of making statements about “the possibility and appropriateness of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia: nuclear weapons.”
“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction and in some components more modern than those of NATO countries.”
Insists that the goal is to ‘liberate’ Ukraine
Putin reaffirmed that his goal was to “liberate” the industrial region of Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, and that the majority of the region’s inhabitants did not want to return to the “yoke” of Ukraine.
Before Putin’s speech, world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and plans for four occupied regions to hold referendums on joining Russia in the coming days.
In an apparently coordinated move, pro-Russian authorities have announced referendums for September 23-27 in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia provinces, which make up about 15 percent of Ukraine’s territory, an area the size of Hungary.
Russia already considers Lugansk and Donetsk, which together make up the Donbas region that Moscow partially occupied in 2014, to be independent states. Ukraine and the West consider all parts of Ukraine held by Russian forces to be illegally occupied.
Russia now holds about 60 percent of Donetsk and had captured almost all of Lugansk in July after slow progress during months of intense fighting.
These gains are now under threat after Russian forces were pushed out of neighboring Kharkov province this month, losing control of their main supply lines for much of the Donetsk and Luhansk front.
“The Russians can do whatever they want. Nothing will change,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said on Tuesday in response to questions from journalists at the United Nations, where the leaders were arriving for a meeting of the Assembly. General dominated by the war in Ukraine.
In a tweet, he added: “Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will continue to liberate them no matter what Russia says.”
If the referendum plan “wasn’t so tragic, it would be fun,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters ahead of the UN assembly in New York.
Putin on February 24 ordered a “special military operation” in Ukraine to root out dangerous nationalists and “denazify” the country. The war has left thousands dead, destroyed cities and driven millions from their homes in the former Soviet republic.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has stated that Putin will only give up his “imperial ambitions”, which risk destroying Ukraine and Russia, if he recognizes that he cannot win the war.
“This is why we will not accept any peace dictated by Russia and this is why Ukraine must be able to repel Russia’s attack,” Scholz said in his first speech to the General Assembly.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the assembly that the UN’s credibility was in jeopardy due to the invasion by Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, and that the council needed to be reformed.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is conduct that tramples on the philosophy and principles of the UN charter… It should never be tolerated,” Kishida said.